Could there be microbial life forms living beneath Pluto’s surface ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 ESO
To date the only life we know of in the entire universe exists here on Earth, yet as our understanding of the other worlds in our solar system increases, so too does the number of potentially habitable environments within our reach that we had previously been oblivious to.
Chief among these are the icy moons such as Europa and Enceladus which, while seemingly inhospitable on the surface, are believed to be home to subterranean oceans of warm water that could provide the perfect haven for the development of primitive extraterrestrial life forms.
Now thanks to data returned by the New Horizons spacecraft we have also been able to add Pluto to that list. This small, distant world was originally believed to be a desolate and inactive body, but once photographs of its smooth plains, icy mountains and mysterious surface features started to return it soon became apparent that there was a lot more to this dwarf planet than anyone had realized.
TV presenter and physicist Brian Cox recently weighed in on the findings on Pluto by suggesting that if a subterranean ocean does exist beneath its surface then it could potentially support life.
It may be many years however before scientists will be able to determine this for sure.
“What science is telling us now is that complex life is probably rare,” said Professor Cox.
“We’re physically insignificant and yet probably very valuable.”